Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


Third Covid-19 wave to hit SA ahead of schedule

According to Prof Alex van den Heever, Easter 'super-spreader events' will trigger a third resurgence in Covid-19 infections.


With the Easter weekend just around the corner, experts have raised concerns that a third wave of Covid-19 infections may hit South Africa earlier than expected.

According to Prof Alex van den Heever, chair of social security systems administration and management studies at Wits University, Easter “super-spreader events” will trigger a third resurgence in Covid-19 infections – and this time around it is inevitable.

Van den Heever said the fight against the pandemic was far from over as the behaviour of South Africans would determine when the third wave would arrive.

“The current configuration of restrictions allows for superspreading events to occur. There are already signs in the Free State and the Western Cape that surges may be on the way.

“This is based on reviewing the excess death data which is more accurate in tracking the timing of surges than the daily infection reports,” he said.

He said government would not even be aware of a new wave until SA was well into it. Prevention required a set of ongoing restrictions that target gatherings, while minimising the impact on the economy.

“It is not clear that government has hit on the most efficient configuration yet. The curfew was probably the most effective at curtailing high-risk super-spreading events.”

“However, large indoor religious gatherings represent a significant potential driver of transmissions over the Easter weekend next month. It would make sense to introduce measures now to minimise these risks, rather than wait for the surge of infections later,” Van den Heever added.

However, the Solidarity Fund has urged people to congregate differently to try and prevent the next wave of the pandemic.

The executive head of humanitarian support and brand communication at the fund, Wendy Tlou, said many businesses faced hardships, many of which have resulted in loss of employment. Preventing another wave would not only protect lives, but livelihoods, too.

“Each wave, depending on its intensity, creates the necessity for the adjustments of risk levels, which creates stop/starts in the economy as restrictions are increased or eased, creating uncertainty in economic recovery.”

Tlou said they had urged religious groups, the liquor, restaurant, transport and hospitality industries to be active in preventing the next wave because they suffered the most when restrictions were imposed.

“These groups have an influence on the population and they will be the most active during this period, particularly religious groups, which have the platforms to reach a large audience.

“Our agency is creating a multisector collaborative effort in preventing the next wave, simply because we have witnessed the devastation of the second wave with regards to loss of lives, as well as impact on the economy.”

“We need collaborative messaging to encourage all South Africans to be part of the behavioural change movement,” Tlou said.

South African Medical Association (Sama) chair Dr Angelique Coetzee said over the Easter period, there would be large religious or social gatherings which could result in transmissions.

“Easter season is coming up which is a great time to be with family. But despite the present decline in Covid cases, the danger has not yet passed.

“South Africans need to wear their masks, social distance, wash their hands, sanitise and stay away from overcrowded spaces,” said Coetzee.

“But most importantly, people should consider getting a flu shot because by the Easter weekend and winter season, we would not have reached herd immunity.

“They should drink outside, eat outside and gather outside any super-spreader event that poses a huge risk of the third wave.”

reitumetsem@citizen.co.za

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